Last Modified on Jun 18, 2014
What Causes Cracked Heels?
The feet make up a part of the body that undergoes constant abuse and experience excessive injury as such. One common sign of overuse and inattention to the feet are cracked heels; however, these are not the only causes of rough, dry, cracked heels. Medically termed Heel fissures, cracked heels are considered regular linear cut wounds that generally affect the surface level of the skin, otherwise known as the epidermis. With excessive wear and cracking, the wounds may expand as far as the dermis or cause outward spreading of the skin and feet.
Additional symptoms often accompany the telltale cracks indicative of heel fissures. Other common symptoms include red or flaky skin patches, peeling skin, itchy skin, and bleeding or discharge from the cracks or wounds. While not typical, cracked heels may also be accompanied by fungus or other infection.
A number of factors have been identified as causes of cracked heels. The most common causes include naturally dry or thick skin, prolonged daily standing, and excessive weight on the feet including obesity. Disease and skin disorders are also linked to heel cracks, including athlete’s foot, psoriasis and eczema. Additional health concerns and dietary issues may also be to blame in some cases. Thyroid disease, diabetes, vitamin and mineral deficiency, and unhygienic circumstances can also cause heel fissures.
Natural Cracked Heel Remedies
Proper foot hygiene and treatment is the most effective remedy for treating cracked heels. An effective regimen involves filing the rough heels with a fine emery board or file, soaking them in diluted peroxide or apple cider vinegar, exfoliating the foot with a gentle scrub like sea salt and olive oil, and applying a thick oil to the feet such as Vaseline. Additional treatment options include castile soap, borax, coconut oil, and shortening. Kelp and magnesium oil are also effective options for replenishing the skin’s natural nutrients and healing cracked feet.
Table of Contents
- QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
- Tricia's Cracked Heel Remedies
- Anti-Fungal Supplements
- Antifungal Foot Cream, Olive Oil
- Bandaid, Emery Board, Moisturize
- Castile Soap
- Coconut Oil
- Crisco Shortening
- Duct Tape
- File, Soak, Apply
- Hydrogen Peroxide Soaks
- Magnesium Oil
- Mentholated Vapor Rub
- Moisturizing Socks
- Neem Soap, Lugol's Iodine for Cracked Heels
- Oil Pulling
- Omega 3 Supplements
- Oregano Oil
- Paraffin and Candle Wax
- Ped Egg and Coconut Oil
- Raw Honey
- Remedies Needed
- Shea Butter
- Super Glue, ACV, Coconut Oil
- Vinegar, Freeze Your Shoes
- Vinegar, Shoes and Socks in the Freezer
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin B12
[YEA] 09/25/2009: Tricia from Ireland: "Re cracked heels. I have had great success with the following -
Before you put your feet in any liquids use an emery board to remove any dry flaky skin. Your feet MUST be dry for this. Wet skin will only move with the emery board not fall away. The type of emery board is important. Here we use the black style. The types for nails that come in different colors i.e. pink blue etc. The reason you don't want to use the metal ones or the one designed specifically for the feet that are like cheese graters is that they are too hard and pull too much skin at once from what is already a very dry area. Think of how they would leave the cheese looking. I always recommend that this can be done while watching the telly or listening to the radio cos you can't damage yourself with these as you can with the metal type. Try to get the hard bit on the edge of the cracks without making yourself sore. You will be very surprised at the amount of dust that you will see coming away from your skin but this is normal. The brown old fashioned emery boards are too gentle and the black ones are perfect. When the dust stops flying move to the next part. If you are getting sore at all you have done enough for the day. More will come off tomorrow.
Rinse that dust off your feet as while it is blocking your pores you will absorb nothing transdermally. And it should only be dust, if you see larger bits of skin the emery board is too strong for you. At this stage you can soak your feet in any liquid of your choice i.e. anti-fungal, vinegar, peroxide or oils or salts for as long as suits you. Doing this with a couple of sports clubs some of the men chose to do it with plain old washing up liquid (detergent). So it is a case of whatever suits you. Use antiseptics or peroxide if there is any chance of an infection or dirt being caught in the cracks as it may close over the dirt and cause a diferent problem.
Then this is most important. Pack the cracks with some kind of thick oil. Our choice at the time we did this was vaseline but some would not choose this because of the petrolatum issue. Whatever you use press it over the crack to ensure that it has gone in the full depth. These cracks cannot heal while they are dry. If you had an operation on your stomach and the skin dried out to the same extent it would not heal either. We usually put large medical issue bandages over them to keep the vaseline on the feet.This won't suit everyone so a cotton pair of socks will do. The people we did this with all had to walk home so bandages were needed to keep the vaeline well packed. Wash next day as normal and leave bandage off. You want your feet fairly dry to repeat the process the next evening.
Remember it will be easy to slip on the floor until this is washed off. Do the same the next evening and continue til necessary tapering the amount of times done as they heal.
This worked within 3 days for some and some took approx 2 weeks. But it makes sense that the hard skin needs to go and the skin to be wet for the cracks to knit together.
As for the fungal infection. Many people will only treat the area that they can see the infection on. The human eye cannot see all of a fungal infection so if it spreading nor can they see it when it is at the last stages of treatment so it is very important to treat outside the area and for a lot longer that you can see it or feel it. My husband picks up an athletes foot while he is travelling for business on a regular basis. He never feels it but we can see it between his toes. We only know he has it when I catch it because I get the itching and burning long before I can see it. We use a providone iodine antiseptic wash which is normally used for pre-operation swabs in a footbath then antifungal medicated creams. Because he gets the moccassin type we bathe and cream his feet up to the ankles. I only get the moccassin type around the toe area so I only need to cover the shoe area. This is a long winded way of telling you how to do it but it actually doesn't take long perform it. The longest part of it is how long you choose to soak you feet and it is our tried and tested method."Replies
09/26/2009: Tricia from Ireland replies: "One thing that I forgot to say in my previous post is to mark your nail file in some manner i.e. nail polish. Make it obvious so that you never use it on your finger nails or that somebody else might use it inappropriately. If you are carrying an infection of any kind (and most people do) it will be transferred to the fingers. The nail file can be cleaned with peroxide or rubbing alcohol but the dust is so minute and nail files are not easy to fully clean without a steriliser. So make sure it is kept for YOUR feet. As we say in Ireland "to be sure, to be sure"."
11/26/2009: J from Portland, Me replies: "I do the same only I use the stuff they put on cow udders. It works great!"
07/19/2011: Elaine from Yucca Valley, Ca replies: "I only get cracked heels when I wear shoes that cave in at the heel area. When I wear shoes where the heel rests on a flat base, the cracked areas go away quickly."
07/07/2013: Glue from Victoria replies: "I used super glue on it. When the glue fell off eventually the ringworm was gone!"
[YEA] 07/27/2008: Jonna from NYC, NY, USA: "1:30am, Saturday Night: I read AC from West Midlands, England's post about using Garlic for Athlete's foot a few days ago and was eager to try it. I have had athlete's foot on and off for years. I also have deeply etched cracked heals which I understand is possibly a fungal infection. And then recently the skin around my right big toe started to peel and looks nasty as can be. I tried the best OTC for Athlete's Foot, but with limited success. Takes 5 days to go away and then comes back a couple weeks later.
We had just run out of garlic, so I opted instead for another powerful anti-fungal, Wild Oil of Oregano. I use OO for coughs and sinus infections and had about 15 capsules left. Before going to sleep, I punctured a capsule of oil and rubbed it over both of my feet, especially concentrating it on my big toe, in between my toes where the athelete's foot itched and the cracks on my heals. I put socks on so the oil wouldn't get all over the sheets. It doesn't smell bad at all -- much better than garlic for sure!
Just like AC reported, there was dramatic improvement by the morning! The infection around my big toe was 50% better... The blisters in between my toes had disappeared. The cracks in my heals have started to seal and are unbelievably soft... (I had been rubbing shea butter on the cracks every night, which helped, but not to this extent).
I did the Oregano oil 3 morning and night for 2 days, took a day off. The infection around my big toe is all but gone. No more peeling skin. The cracks on my heels continue to slowly improve. Tonight I switched to Grapefruit Seed Extract and my feet, normally cold, warmed up right away. This may be a great remedy for those suffering from cold hands and feet. My feet are still tinglingly warm 2 hours after applying the GSE.
I have the feeling that the GSE will work just as well as the Oregano Oil. I also am trying the GSE on my perioral dermatitis and will report back any improvements. I can tell you that the itchy postules around my nose have disappeared. I had to wash off the GSE after about 20 minutes because it started to burn."Replies
[YEA] 08/14/2011: Carol from Gulfport, Mississippi replies: "soaking your feet in a diluted solution of Pine-Sol will do the trick for cracked heel fungus... A physician told me this many years ago.... So when one of my children had a foot condition this is what I did and no more problems. Then I use vit. E or a lanolin and I personally use "duct" tape to cover my heels due to the fact I cannot stand my feet covered when I sleep. My condition started after Katrina when we were so involved with the clean up and I have tried everything!!!! Pine-Sol did the trick! YAY!!!"
[YEA] 05/06/2008: Kay : "I had bad cracked heals and nothing worked until I used an antifungal foot cream for about two weeks and then after that i used olive oil as a moisturizer."
[YEA] 12/29/2008: Peter from Belen, New Mexico: "What works for me for Cracked Heels is the following: First, I'll cover the crack(s) with a band aid to alleviate discomfort. Then, while showering, I use the coarse side of a foot Emery Board until the skin around the cracks is no longer calloused or hard; I then rub the area carefully with the smooth side. Finally, after the shower, I try to leave that area a little damp and use a non-fragrant body moisturizer from the health food store if the crack is not too sensitive - otherwise, a band aid again. As a followup, I try to maintain this area with moisturizer and periodic use of the emery board. I've been doing this for several years with good results. I hope this helps.
What I haven't been able to do is heal the cracked tip of my finger or thumb. I'll try the vinegar and see if that helps. The band aid therapy works, but I want to eliminate the cause, whatever that may be..."
[YEA] 08/07/2012: Gloria from Gaithersburg, Maryland: "I wanted to pass on the success I've been having with treating my cracked heels and athlete's foot/toenail fungus. First, for a long time I didn't realize that all three of these were related ailments, especially the cracked heels which I had attributed to aging and dry skin. Now I realize it was symptomatic of a fungal infection.
I recently developed a "rash" on my ankle near my heel. At first I thought it was bug bites. It was a small cluster of red itchy dots. At first I tried ACV and H202 on them, but in a halfhearted way. It didn't really seem to help much. Then I got the idea to use borax, for some reason.
After bathing while my feet were still moist, I took about a teaspoon of borax powder in my hand and rubbed it all over my feet, heels, ankle, between toes, etc. The itching from the rash stopped and my feet felt "good. " I left the powder on my feet (a very thin coat remained) and went to bed. I repeated this for a few nights. The rash has been scabbing over and healing (I still don't know what caused it -- fungus or something else).
But the remarkable thing is the skin on my heels! It is healing, getting softer, younger-looking. My heels had been cracked, dry and ugly for about 5 years! I've been doing this for two weeks now, and the improvement is remarkable.
As well, my toenail fungus and athlete's foot between my toes is going away. I now have "pretty feet" and I am not ashamed to go out wearing my sandals (and no nail polish, either, to hide the ugly nails! They look normal, now).
I have also started applying a homemade ointment to my feet each morning, consisting of coconut oil, aloe, tea tree oil and lavender. This feels soothing and I think it's helping, too, but the borax seems to be the main thing."
[YEA] 06/25/2013: Marilyn from Salem, Oregon, United States: "I have been using Castile soap on my cracked heels for about 10 days and I'm amazed. I think I have purchased every cream on the market for my dry feet but the soap seems to work so much better. I don't use any creams and think this will solve my problems but will need more time. My feet are at least 90% better!"Replies
[YEA] 07/08/2013: Gwen from Peru, Il replies: "I as well tried Castile liquid soap after seeing this post Put peppermint scented on my feet and wore either plastic bags or socks to bed and in 15 days they were 90% better. It's coming back again but that lasted 6 months should've kept up with maintenance treatments but am starting the regimen again!"
03/16/2012: Dana from Larose, Louisiana/ Usa: "I battled with painful bleeding cracked heels for years, I put this lotion and that lotion with no real improvement. I finally discovered Cracked heel balm at walmart and tried it. It worked great but I could never stop treatment more than a day or two. I do still use it when I get lazy and forget to take care of my feet.
The best thing I ever did for my feet is get a good pair of shoes. I loved being barefoot and when I did wear shoes they were flat and light. When I started wearing a good pair of walking shoes with socks everyday my heels got better. With the added heel cream they were like new. I started using a pumice in the tub for daily care and now I use a little heeltastic before I put on my socks and I hardly ever have trouble, only if I have to go a few days in a dress shoe or a flat tennis shoe. I've recently started using coconut oil and it does a good job too, heeltastic is easier and does a great job. Also I love the ped egg! Not the grater part but the smoother part, feet like a baby!"
[YEA] 05/17/2008: Anna from Elk Grove, CA: "Dry Cracked Heels: This remedy sounds odd but works. A friend told me her dermatologist recommened crisco shortening for her cracked heels. She said it worked great so I tried it and my feet are softer, better than any lotions I use. Cheap too."
[YEA] 08/07/2012: Mike from San Bernardino, Ca USA: "I have had a problem with peeling and cracking dryness in my heels since I was a child. A little piece of skin would emerge and I would want to peel it right off. That would usually leave me with pain for weeks. It would also lead to cracking and painful infections over a period of years. I've used creams and ointments and petroleum jelly with some success. I've saturated my socks and ruined a pair of shoes more than once. You know, you just can't work with your feet squishing around in a slimy gel.
That said, I'm sure you can tell it was not easy for me to get any success out of using ointments. I did have some success but I did not get any great success until I tried putting duct tape on my heels. Of all things, duct tape. Crazy, huh?
Who would think that duct tape would keep my skin so moist throughout the day that I think the healing comes from the inside out. It even makes the pain go away within just a few hours. First, I tried doing it with ointments like Neosporin. That didn't work very well because the tape would not stick when my skin was oily, like that.
Then, when I washed my feet thoroughly, soaking them for 10 min. In hot soapy water and then dried them thoroughly, and used some alcohol to remove the last of excess oils, then the duct tape stuck pretty well. I keep the duct tape on for several hours during sleep and even when I'm awake. I can walk around in it and it even feels very good on my feet. Greatest part about it is that it works amazingly fast.
I would normally take a pretty coarse emery board to dry sand my heels just enough to smooth out the rough parts. But that's all it would ever take to get my heels hurting enormously, the next day. However, when I put the duct tape on immediately afterward there is no pain the next day. I can feel it tingling under the tape but no real pain.
When there was pain because I did not use any duct tape the next day I immediately started to use the tape again and within a few hours the pain went away. What could possibly be in the sticky part that kills pain? I don't know. I just know that it works. Maybe it's not the tape, at all. But maybe it is the body's own defenses, able to operate better under moist conditions. Of course I'm guessing, but what else could it be?
My process usually went something like this:
I would usually go about 12 to 24 hours "ON" and 12 to 24 hours "OFF". Repeating it over several days and weeks. Then, I would not need to do it again for several months. But you know, my problem would always come back because I obviously must have some sort of a problem with circulation, or some type of nutrient deficiency, or something I have not yet been able to identify.
I just thought you might like to try this little duct tape on the bottom of the feet system, yourself. It surely works for me."
[YEA] 10/07/2009: Ebryant from Tampa, Fl: "I am 32 years old and have suffered with dry, cracked heels (sometimes bleeding and extremely painful) for years. BUT NO MORE!!!!
Take it from me, if you want soft feet, here is what you do:
Every Night until there are no more cracks:
1)Take a foot file (looks like fine grit sand paper on a paddle) and rub it over your dry heels in order to sand off all the dead dry skin.
2)Soak your feed in a pan of hot water with about 1/4 peroxide or ACV (whichever you have on hand or whichever you prefer).
3)Once the skin on your feet has softenend up, gently exfoliate your entire foot with some type of foot scrub (sea salt and olive oil, brown sugar, borax... whatever you like).
4)Rinse your feet well and while they are still damp massage your feet with V***'s Vapo-Rub. Wrap your feet in saran-wrap and put on a pair of socks.
I always do this in the evening and go to bed with my feet all wrapped up. I enjoy the warming tingle of the menthol/eucalyptus from the rub as I fall off to sleep. And in the morning I wake up to baby soft feet!!! Once your cracked HEELS are HEALED, lol... you will need to continue the treatment 1-3 times a week."
[YEA] 07/12/2009: Mo from Battle Ground, WA: "soaked feet nightly in drugstore strength hydrogren peroxide until cracks were healed."
[YEA] 03/24/2012: Julie from Provo, Ut: "Taking a kelp supplement helped clear up my cracked heels. I had read that iodine could cure tonail fungus and I figured it might help with my cracked heels too. It did, and quite quickly. While they were healing I used just a regular heel conditioner.
I ran out of Kelp and didn't get any more for over a month. My heels are cracked and bleeding again."
[YEA] 06/28/2009: Gean from Salina, Kansas: "My mom, who is 62 and has had severely cracked heels for as long as I can remember, started spraying herself with magnesium oil (magnesium chloride). Within a couple of weeks her heels were completely smooth.
I also gave some magnesium oil to a friend in her late 40's. After 1-2 weeks of spraying in on her body, she got "baby feet". She had had very cracked heels.
Neither of these ladies sprayed it on their feet, just on body once daily after a shower. We did not know it would have this effect, but they are very happy about this!"
06/30/2009: Kelly from Anywhere, USA replies: "this may sound a little crazy but, i've used this remedy and it works. Every winter my joints in my hands (palm+outside knuckle) would crack so deep that you could see the muscle (red). So I took some ___ lip balm (the liquid w/ the slant applicator for lips)and put it on the crack with a bandaid and it would be healed by morning. previously, I had tried every cream from cheap to expensive but nothing worked as well as that. I hope this helps, it could'nt hurt. God Bless!!"
[YEA] 11/22/2012: Wecair from Moose Jaw, Sk. Canada: "I have had extremeley dry, cracked and caloused feet for years. Sometimes the cracks were so deep I was concerned they would become infected. Somewhere I had heard that mentholated rub applied to them and covered with clean dry socks overnight would help so I tried it. I smeared my feet with a generous amount of rub and put my socks on, by the very first morning the layers of dried skin peeled off. My feet after just 2 treatments are soft and have not looked and felt this good in years! Even the deep crack is almost gone. Thank you Vapo rub."Replies
[YEA] 01/17/2013: Dukeycash from Dora, Missouri replies: "Thank you so much for this solution to cracked heels. Two nights of vapor rub and socks and my feet are smooth, smooth."
[YEA] 10/13/2011: Shelley from Larkfield, California: "This may seem like a stretch but it does work.
It takes around two or so months depending on how bad the fungal infection is, if it is in the toe nails that will take two to three months, but it is the only thing that cured my Dad's fungus that he had, been bothered with since his days as a Navy man, back in the mid 1950's.
You take Mentholatum or Vicks Vapor Rub, and rub a thick coat all over your feet at bedtime, and cover your feet with your socks, you must sleep in your socks. In the morning put on a fresh pair of socks, and repeat each night until the fungus, cracks and itchy smelly feet are gone.
It took my Dad two month of this and he had tried all the prescriptions, and OTC remedies and nothing worked until this. I have used it also and it does kill the fungus and dry cracked feet issues."